Olympic gold medalist inspires young female athletes

Tuesday, January 27, 2009 | 7:56 p.m. CST
Olympic gold medalist Nikki Stone says her biggest role model while growing up was Olympian Nadia Comaneci.

Nothing is going to inspire women to get involved in sports more than hearing an Olympic Gold Medalist tell them her story.

Tuesday, Nikki Stone, who won her gold medal in inverted aerial skiing, spoke to a crowd full of aspiring women athletes at the Southwell Complex at Columbia College. Stone was invited by Win For Columbia, an organization that promotes women's  involvement in sports and physical activity. It was the 12th Annual Women’s Intersport Network for Columbia Awards Luncheon.

Stone said she gives, on average, 30-50 speeches a year.

“This is the group I love to speak to,” Stone said. “I love to speak to young, inspired women. Particularly, young, inspired women in sports. I was that young girl who was looking up to the role models growing up. If there is something that I can say to help inspire them or to lend them my congratulations to know that they are on the right path, it makes my job that much more enjoyable.”

Stone said her biggest role model growing up was Olympic Gold Medalist Nadia Comăneci.

“I saw her score that perfect ten,” Stone said. “It was so encouraging for me that I had to rush into my living room, build my own podium with tables and chairs and stand on top and imagine that I was an Olympian. I was five years old at the time and it was that day that I told my parents I was going to win the Olympics someday.”

Stone added that being able to now call Comăneci a friend is a dream come true.

Stone won her medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Japan. What makes her story so unbelievable is that, due to a chronic injury to her back only a few years earlier, 10 doctors told her that she would never ski or jump again.

MU senior Whitnee Maycock was one of the nominees for Collegiate Sportswoman of the Year, one of the awards handed out Tuesday. Julia Potter, an MU golfer, won the award. Maycock competes in Olympic Weightlifting, which is not a sport that has an organized team at the university. Maycock said her only coach for weightlifting is former MU Professor Dr. Tom LaFontaine. Other than him, she practices her craft on her own, six days a week.

“I feel very honored for the simple fact of getting recognition,” Maycock said. “I don’t have a full-time coach or a full-time team. I do it for myself and it’s very rewarding.”

Maycock said she hopes women and girls at the event see that by her nomination, it doesn’t mean you have to be part of a sports team to be considered an athlete.

Stone, who retired one year after winning her medal, added that she enjoys speaking even more than she enjoyed competing.

“After I won my medal, I went into an event center where the women’s hockey team was and they had just won their gold medal,” Stone said. “They were all celebrating together, and I was celebrating by myself. At the time, I sat there and said to myself it would be so incredible to share this medal with other people.”

Stone claims that she retired early partly because of her injury, but also because she wanted to start sharing her story with young women in sports.

”To be able to get up in front of a group of people and go to them and say this is what I’ve learned, this is what has inspired me and have someone come up to me afterwards and tell me they want to change their life because of something I said, that is the most powerful thing you could ever have in your entire life."

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